Eden Hazard Showing Class That Makes Him Best Player in the Premier League

Dan Levene@@blueschronicleFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2014

Fulham's John Heitinga, back, competes with Chelsea's Eden Hazard during their English Premier League soccer match at Craven Cottage, London, Saturday, March 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Sang Tan/Associated Press

Another masterclass from Eden Hazard has left people reaching for the superlatives again. Setting up two Chelsea goals and delivering a highlights package of delights all on his own, he was nothing short of pure joy to watch in the second half of Chelsea's 3-1 win at Fulham.

But this is not about one game—particularly not one against the side bottom of the league. What are the things that set him apart from the rest?

Firstly, and most obviously, he has incredible technique, as illustrated by OptaJoe:

100 - Eden Hazard is the first player to complete 100 dribbles in @premierleague this season. Wizardry.

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 1, 2014

Some players—Frank Lampard, for example—reach greatness through hard work. Others are simply born great—and Hazard is clearly one of the latter group.

The touches, the flicks, the priceless rabona that seemed to mock the Fulham defence from near the corner flag—these are all hallmarks of a player born to be great.

"It is a skill that not all of them can do in a match and it is a skill he could do in the second half because he was there, and the first half he was not there, like all the others," Blues manager Jose Mourinho told Chelsea's official website of Hazard's audacious rabona flick.

Both of his parents played football to a decent standard in his native Belgium—and a certain amount of that has to be in the genes.

That is not to say, of course, that players have not thrown away such greatness due to a lack of hard work.

The history of football is littered with the names of "what if?" players—those of prodigious talent who failed to put the hours in.

The Premier League of 2014 is not the Football League of 1968. A George Best or an Alan Hudson, who could wow the crowds before spending the next week's training time in the pub, would simply be nowhere today.

And that leads to the second contributory factor to Hazard's greatness: his work ethic.

Hazard trains, and trains, and trains. It is notable that his game has improved under Mourinho—a man for whom a positive attitude toward training is everything in a player.

On-pitch, too, he has adapted to the expectations of his new boss perfectly: tracking back, winning the ball off opponents, closing down players.

A third thing the Chelsea player has in his favour is physiology.

The first glimpse opponents tend to get of him, as he closes down on them, is the flash of blue as he goes past. He is very quick.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15:  Eden Hazard (C) of Chelsea holds off the challenge of Pablo Zabaleta (L) and James Milner (R) of Manchester City during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on February
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Combined with that technique, though, we start to see the pieces of a jigsaw coming together. Few in the Premier League can move so quickly while in possession.

The other side to his physical superiority is what is often referred to as a "low centre of gravity."

Hazard is 5'7" tall—a relative pygmy in these days of Premier League giants. But, for one with such athletic prowess, he is pretty thickly set. This benefits him in terms of balance when working with the ball in close proximity to towering opponents.

The fourth ingredient is one we cannot see or hear but know is there. He has a great footballing brain.

He sees gaps for passes that other players seem to miss. He understands the capabilities of team-mates, giving him a sort of sixth sense when it comes to the game. Few do this better than him right now.

There are other claimants to the title of the Premier League's best, of course—most notably South American imports Sergio Aguero and Luis Suarez.

It could be argued that both are more able players than Hazard; though at 25 and 27, respectively, both have had more opportunity to grow into their game than the precociously talented 23-year-old.

Suarez is probably quicker. Aguero possibly cleverer.

But, neither of them has such a rounded package of positive assets as Hazard.

Mourinho recently said in an interview with Football Daily that though Hazard was the best young player in the world, he could not compete with the "beasts" (meaning Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi).

That time will come, and it cannot be far away.


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